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NC Central joins ranks of schools using COVID relief funds to pay off student debt

The (Raleigh) News & Observer logo The (Raleigh) News & Observer 7/30/2021 Martha Quillin, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Jul. 30—N.C. Central University has cleared more than $10 million in student debt, using federal COVID-19 relief funds to help a fourth of the student population.

"NCCU is committed to student success and this effort speaks to student access and success, one of four focus areas included in the university's strategic plan," NCCU Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye said in a statement announcing the aid. "Students have experienced unprecedented difficulties during the pandemic and easing the financial burden of students will have a long-lasting impact."

The Durham university used money from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by Congress.

NCCU used about $8 million to cover the unpaid balances of 3,832 students, and another $2.4 million to pay summer tuition and fees for 1,450 students. The money also provided financial aid for 808 students who graduated in 2020 and in Spring 2021.

NCCU is part of the UNC System of 17 campuses across the state. Public and private universities in North Carolina have used millions of dollars in federal COVID relief money to help thousands of students, focusing on the ones with the greatest financial need..

East Carolina University used the funds to cover nearly $1 million in student bills; Fayetteville State University, $1.6 million; UNC-Chapel Hill will distribute more than $40 million as emergency financial aid grants.

St. Augustine's University used more than $9 million to help about 800 students, and Shaw University cleared $116,000 from student accounts.

NCCU said the aid would help students such as Tahira A. Hyman, a senior studying nutrition and dietetics, graduate with a smaller debt load than expected.

"Receiving funding for spring and summer 2021 has allowed me to continue in my college education and relieve my mother from paying thousands of dollars in college tuition," Hyman said in the school's statement. "To me, that meant the world to not have the cost of my education be a burden on my parent."

Students still have to pay off federal, state or private loans. The U.S. Department of Education, which suspended its loan payment requirements because of the pandemic, extended the suspension through at least Sept. 30.

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